The 10 Best Swing Sets
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in March of 2015. If you want your kids outdoors in the fresh air and away from televisions, computers, and video games, offer them one of these playsets as a compelling alternative. Available with a variety of activities that spark little ones’ imaginations, they’ll provide plenty of exercise and fun. For safety’s sake, install protective surfacing underneath and always supervise children during use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 18, 2021:
I was expecting this to be a quick round of updates in a relatively stagnant category, but to my surprise I found that our previous list had been absolutely decimated by an epidemic of availability issues. It wasn’t extremely clear why this happened, but what was obvious was that this list needed to be built back up from scratch, with 10 brand new options.
At the bottom end of our list, I included the Little Tikes Chipmunk Cottage and Sportspower Mountain View, in the interest of parents looking for a basic option that presents their toddler with few opportunities for injury. But, recognizing that little kids tend not to stay little for long, I focused the rest of our list on the kind of elaborate, grandiose options that – if you can afford them – can give a definite boost to a child’s lifestyle.
The Lifetime Adventure Tunnel 290704 impressed us with its adventure-worthy overhead tunnel, and the Backyard Discovery Skyfort II won us over with its monkey bars and high balcony. The Gorilla Playsets Playmaker Deluxe 01-1057 and Backyard Discovery Cedar Cove both include two impressive slides, but while the former provides two identical units side by side, the latter offers a straight wavy option and a spiral tube slide.
From built-in tracks for toy cars to integrated play kitchens and telescopes, unique (or, at least unusual) selling propositions can be found all through this category, but the realistic truth is that when it comes to this purchase, the two biggest deciding factors for most families are going to be cost and size. So, once you’ve narrowed your options down to a short list of appropriately priced models, make sure you do your due diligence and check to make sure that its dimensions jive with the space you’re planning on putting it in.
Once the novelty factor wears off and your kids start nagging for something else new and exciting to contribute to their outdoor fun, come back to us. We’ve got lists of dome climbers, basketball hoops for kids and rock climbing holds for your new climbing wall.
March 23, 2020:
A backyard swing set makes for a great way to entice young children outdoors for healthy exercise and imaginative play. The ones featured here offer colorful designs and an array of built-in activities that include swings, gliders, trapeze rings, slides, rock climbing walls, sandboxes, picnic tables, and more.
In this update we added several models, including the Step2 Naturally Playful. Like the Step2 Play Up Jungle Gym, this one features heavy-duty plastic construction and two swings. It also offers a two-person glider and a backboard hoop for ball toss. Built with little climbers in mind, it’s got a staircase and a ladder that both lead to an upper level where they can turn the steering wheel or come down the six-foot slide.
A note regarding wooden playsets: A common concern regarding various wooden models is the lumber is rather thin and can split during assembly (especially if you use power tools) or as time goes on. We excluded various wooden choices from this list for this reason; these are a significant investment and a family should reasonably expect to get many years’ worth of safe use out of one for all of their children.
Having said that, there are select wooden models that are of sturdy quality and are worthy of inclusion. The newly added Gorilla Playsets Navigator, for instance, is worthy of our top spot. It’s made with factory-stained lumber that’s backed by a 10-year warranty and is resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. And it’s packed with colorful, fun features including two swings, a trapeze bar, a wavy slide, a climbing wall, multiple ladders, a picnic table, and more. To top it off, the tongue-in-groove roof features bright green sunburst accents, dormers, and a chimney.
Another wooden selection worthy of a look is the Creative Cedar Designs Sky View, which features solid wood framing along with injection-molded polyethylene accessories. It can stand up to years of outdoor use. In addition to two individual swings, it’s got a two-person glider, a climbing wall, a slide, and a lookout tower that features a telescope, binoculars, and a steering wheel.
Lastly, the Backyard Discovery Big Brutus joins our list today. It’s an option worth considering for those seeking a simple, traditional A-frame swing set, and it’s made of heavy-duty, powder-coated steel construction that resists cracking, warping, and rotting. It’s simple to put together and comes with molded feet with anchors included. It features two belt swings and a metal trapeze bar to provide a swinging good time for up to three tots at once.
If you’re looking for a set that’s reliable but might be a bit less of an investment, check out our list of best budget swing sets. On a safety-related note, a swing set should always be installed over a protective, shock-absorbing surface. Keep it within the line of sight from a household window, without any trees or other landscaping in the way. Keep it away from driveways and roads, and choose an area in the shade if you can. Lastly, always supervise kids closely when they’re playing on these structures to keep them safe and prevent injury.
Bears Playgrounds This family-owned American company offers everything from small structures suitable for suburban backyards, to bigger behemoths that look like they'd be better off in a bona fide park. A catalogue detailing their available options is available for download through their website. bearsplaygrounds.com
Kids Creations Double Tower This customizable design includes 50 square feet of play deck, including an upper deck that's seven feet high and can accommodates a slide up to 14 feet long. Roof options include wood or canopy, and slides are available in a range of sizes and colors. You can also add monkey bars, swing beams, and rock walls in almost any location. The wooden components are made from 100% California redwood, which is resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. It’s made in the United States, with safety in mind, with corners that are smoothly sanded and hardware that’s recessed to prevent cuts and scrapes. It meets or exceeds ASTM standards for safety in a residential setting. Each swing can accommodate up to 250 pounds and features a single molded piece with reinforced nylon grommets and UV protection. kidscreations.com
Why Every Child Can Benefit From A Swing Set
Unfortunately, excessive screen time is extremely unhealthy for children.
It's no secret that healthy kids are happy kids. It's also no secret that in our smartphone- and tablet-obsessed society kids tend to spend an inordinate amount of time indoors staring at screens. Unfortunately, excessive screen time is extremely unhealthy for children. Studies have even shown that it inhibits brain development by causing grey matter atrophy, reducing cortical thickness, impairing cognitive function, and more.
Even if you don't believe this, there is no arguing that excessive screen time can lead to obesity. This shouldn't be much of a surprise to anybody considering that playing a video game doesn't burn a fraction of the calories that playing outdoors does. With the rate of childhood obesity tripling since the 1970s, it is vital that we do everything we can do to motivate our kids to engage in more physical activity. Having a swing set in the backyard is definitely a great way to start. It will make the CDC's recommended one hour a day of physical activity fly by. Starting children off at a young age with the habit of moving their body and exercising regularly results in them adopting healthier lifestyle choices as they age, as well.
It is also worth noting that getting kids outside and playing in natural environments is beneficial in other ways. Research shows that outdoor physical activity leads to better mental wellbeing. It can lower stress levels and instances of depression, giving people a happier outlook on life. It also helps to boost the immune system, making it less likely for children to get sick when exposed to germs since their body can better fight infection. Spending time outdoors is also believed to boost creativity and mental focus.
A Good Fit For You And Your Kids
A person's individual sense of aesthetics is bound to recoil at the sight of any play set that crosses the line from point of pride to monstrosity. Where that line is drawn may differ depending on one's individual preferences and how much outdoor space they have on their property. For example, if you have acres of land on which to build, then your line might be drawn closer to something the size of an outdoor fortress like Camelot than to a simple tire swing.
If you have two or three children, you should buy a sturdy swing set that allows them all to play at the same time so one never feels left out of the fun.
In addition to your available space, you should also take into account how many children you expect to play on it. If you have just one child, you may not need such a large swing set, unless of course your child has lots of friends who come over to play often, in which case you should buy something that will accommodate multiple kids. The same is true for multi-children households. If you have two or three children, you should buy a sturdy swing set that allows them all to play at the same time so one never feels left out of the fun.
One must also consider a play set's overall durability, which is often a product of the material from which it's built. You can find swing sets made from wood, metal, or plastic, each of which offers its own pros and cons. Most find that wood has a nicer aesthetic, but it tends to have the highest cost and won't be suitable for somebody on a tight budget. Wooden swing sets are also very durable, with the caveat that they must be maintained properly to get the longest lifespan from them. This may include re-painting or staining every few years, and periodically tightening screws and bolts. While on the subject of screws and bolts, we should mention that wooden swing sets are often more labor intensive to assemble.
Metal swing sets are generally lower in cost, yet still very sturdy. The downside to metal is that it has a tendency to rust after a couple of years. Most don't find them as aesthetically pleasing either. As with wooden swing sets, you may have to periodically tighten screws and bolts on metal varieties. Plastic sets fall somewhere between wood and metal when it comes to aesthetics and durability. They require practically no maintenance, other than perhaps hosing them down for a quick wash, and they can easily last through years and years of use, too, although they are subject to UV degradation and may eventually become brittle from sun exposure. Their colors tend to fade over time, as well. Plastic models will be some of the easiest to assemble, often simply snapping together, and are one of the safest choices, as there is no chance of causing splinters or fingers getting pinched between metal joints.
Centuries Of Swing
Swings are in no way a new invention. Archeologists have found vases from 5th century B.C.E Ancient Greece that feature illustrations of women and children playing on swing sets. At that time they were most likely made with wooden planks and hemp rope. We also find evidence of see-saws from the same period. There is even mention of swings in Greek literature, especially as pertaining to Phaedra, who is sometimes referred to as the Swinging Woman in Greek mythology. Apparently the Ancient Greeks enjoyed having fun just as much as debating philosophy.
At that time they were most likely made with wooden planks and hemp rope.
The swing's long history would make sense, as there is something pleasing and fulfilling at an almost primal level to the human psyche when it comes to flying forward and upward right up until the very point where you feel you might lose control.
Swings were later used in more portable ways, particularly during the pioneer days of Manifest Destiny. When a caravan would stop to set up camp or hunt, the children were allowed to play, but they were discouraged from roaming too far. To encourage play, parents would take a solid piece of wood along with some rope, find a suitable tree, and set up an impromptu swing set. When they left, they would take it down and bring it with them for the next layover.
Over time, the materials and design of swing sets may have changed, but their principal purpose remains the same: ensuring that our children have a fun and safe place to play.